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TMJ disorders are medical problems related to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull. These problems can cause pain, difficulty chewing, and other issues.
You can feel your TM joints by placing your fingers directly in front of your ears and opening your mouth. What you're feeling are the rounded ends of your lower jaw as they glide along the joint socket of your temporal bone (that's the part of your skull that contains your inner ear and temple).
TMJ disorders can affect people of any age. The cause of some TMJ disorders can be traced to trauma from a severe blow to the jaw, degeneration of the joint, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or other forms of inflammation. The causes of many cases of TMJ disorders, however, aren't always clear.Some experts believe that responses to stress or anxiety may be a primaryor contributing causal factor.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms?
Signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders may include:
Pain or tenderness of your jaw
Aching pain in and around your ear
Difficulty chewing or discomfort while chewing
Aching facial pain
A clicking sound or grating sensation when opening your mouth or chewing
Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
An uneven bite, because one or more teeth are making premature contact
You may feel pain or tenderness, even when you aren't moving your jaw.
But in most cases, the pain or tenderness worsens when you move your jaw. Jaw clicking is common and doesn't always signal a problem. If there's no pain or limitation of movement associated with your jaw clicking, you probably don't have a TMJ disorder.
When to seek medical advice
If you have persistent pain or tenderness in your TMJ, cheek, facial pain and experience clicking or grating when you chew or move your jaw, or if you can't open or close your jaw completely, seek medical attention. Your doctor, dentist or a TMJ specialist can discuss possible causes and treatments of TMJ disorders with you.
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